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What to do if your dog swallows too much salt water

Closeup of bulldog's face (brown and white) in what looks like a scowl.

This isn't his happy face. (Photo: Flickr/sabianmaggy)

What to do if your dog swallows too much salt water

June 25, 2013

Q: My bulldog spent a lot of time at the beach yesterday and swallowed some sea water. Today he had some diarrhea and is a bit tired (although he usually sleeps a lot after he goes swimming in the ocean). He ate dinner and breakfast just fine and has been drinking a normal amount of water. Should I take him to the vet or wait to see if his stools harden by tomorrow?

A: Digestive upset is pretty normal when a dog ingests ocean water. This is because of the high salt content in the water (salt is a home remedy for dogs to vomit), so it's not surprising that he's been having diarrhea and is lethargic.

The good news is that this usually passes within 48 hours or so.

You can feed him a bland diet. I'd offer a bland diet of boiled rice and boiled hamburger (3 parts rice to 1 part burger) in VERY small amounts (perhaps one-fourth of a cup every hour or so) for the next 24 hours. Once you start feeding the rice mixture, monitor the dog for recurring diarrhea. If the problem doesn't start again, you can begin slowly mixing in his kibble over the next few days until you're back to just kibble.

Also make sure that he has plenty of water available. Fresh, clean water will help flush the salt from his system through urination, and since salt is a natural dehydrator, you want to make sure he's not getting too low on fluids.

-- Answer from Lisa Lepak, a veterinary technician on JustAnswer.

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